“I finished my play today. What do you think of that? Does that look like wasting my time? Three acts, six scenes, a masterpiece all completed in a few weeks.”
George Bernard Shaw to Ellen Terry 30th November 1896.
Chris and Douglas both admonish me for being, as they say, too negative in my blogs and letters, and they are right of course. In fact my whole outlook on life I guess has always been that way. It’s not a question of false modesty it’s just the way it’s always been which is a shame because there’s no point in relying on others to speak up for you. Is it too late to take a leaf out of GBS’s book to say unequivocally how bloody marvellous my plays are, well some of them anyway. There are some crappy ones of course but then no one can be a genius all the time. I’m not saying the good ones are masterpieces but there is no doubting their dramatic quality so the sixty four thousand dollar question still remains – why will no one do them? That’s not being negative, that’s simply asking a straightforward question. Like Offenbach I should have had my own theatre.
There have always been revivals in the theatre. The theatre couldn’t do without them. After all every time a Shakespeare or a Restoration play is produced it’s a revival. On the other hand neither can the theatre exist without new works, there has to be a balance and, looking at what’s on in London at the moment, the balance seems tilted heavily towards revivals with new work appearing only in the smaller and outer theatres. Provincial theatres are not in the habit of producing new plays. In all the rep seasons in which I performed over the years I never had the experience of creating a character in a new play. Having said this I also have to say that I had four plays that first saw the light of day (well theatrical light) in Rep: Oh Brother, Tell Me You Love Me Women Around, Early One Morning and two in outer London; Thriller of the Year and Champagne Charlie. One play actually premièred in London, The 88.
When I was in the company at The Haymarket in London we did two revivals: Hobson’s Choice and Captain Brassbound’s Conversion and one new play, A Coat Of Varnish renamed A Cloak of Tarnish. It wasn’t very good although it did give me the chance of playing my one and only new character.
Looking now at what’s on, add to the hoary old numbers that have been going on for centuries and look as if they’ll never come to an end: The Mousetrap, Les Miz, Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King, Blood Brothers, The Woman In Black, there are or have been revivals of Quatermaine’s Terms, The Winslow Boy, Cabaret, A Chorus of Disapproval, Scrooge The Musical, Privates On Parade, Our Boys, Charlie’s Aunt, Top Hat, Spamalot, Hello Dolly, Kiss Me Kate, Trelawney of the Wells, Relatively Speaking, The Pyjama Game, Merrily We Roll Along. Surprising how many productions this has had considering it was a flop when first done. The Magistrate, A Chorus Line, Uncle Vanya, Hedda Gabler, The Turn of the Screw, Old Times, Quite a list. I’m not saying these are bad works and that they do not warrant revival but it is scraping the bottom of the barrel somewhat to revive that trifling piece of fifties twee English whimsy, Salad Days. Why not The Boy Friend? That has catchier songs, is pastiche and, as pastiche like Little Mary Sunshine, it need never lose its flavour.